Sermon Epiphany 5 February 10, 2019

Isaiah 6:1-8                Psalm 138       

            1 Corinthians 15:1-11                       Luke 5:1-11

May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In the Beginning there was God.  Through a lot of actions God created the universe, the Earth, the plants, animals and us.  Adam and Eve lived in the direct presence of God until they did not deserve to.  They were expelled from the Garden of Eden and no longer saw God, and no one since has either.  In spite of not being able to see God the earliest human beings knew about God, because God still acted in people’s lives although not visible God was always present.  The way the air is to us, was how they perceived God, invisible, life sustaining, always and everywhere present.  God was just always present and so familiar that God didn’t need a name.

Air is a mysterious thing.  For millions of years, just like God, its presence was accepted and not named.  It wasn’t until the eighteenth century that we started to understand air.  Before then we were like the fish now swimming in the sea.  Swimming in water but not having a name or understanding of their all-pervasive environment.  In human ignorance it used to be thought that the trees caused the wind because when they moved it became windy.  People confused effect with cause.  We know differently now.  We need however to continue to discern between cause and effect.  God is the ultimate cause of all things, all things natural and supernatural.  Nature is not God, God made Nature and all the blessings it provides, not the other way round.

The ancient Israelites lived in a world where other peoples had named their gods, Horus and Isis, Molech and Ishtar, Baal, Marduk, Vishnu and all sorts of others.  Moses thought that his mission to free the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt would not get off the ground with Pharaoh unless he could say he was the emissary of an identifiable named God.  Unlike other gods there were no idols representing our God.  So lacking identity God obliged by stating the obvious, God said  “I AM WHO I AM”  that is YHWH in Hebrew, and as translated through German some say Jehovah, in English we say God or the LORD.  It’s the Holy Name of God, so sacred that orthodox Jews never speak it nor do we normally write it, in that form.  The Holy Name captures the meaning of self-existence.  I AM WHO I AM.  That’s God independent of all other powers.

Paul is well aware of the difference between God and humans in their frailty.  Frailty is the complete opposite of God’s nature even though we are made in God’s image.  We seem to be a bit like a Chinese knock-off of divinity – we look the same but don’t come close in either quality or performance.  Paul declares in his first letter to the Christians in Corinth the obvious facts that we know and believe, indeed the central tenets of our belief, that Christ died and rose from the dead, and he adds that there were many witnesses to Jesus’ resurrected presence.   And Paul says that even though Jesus’ Resurrection was known to many, in his frailty, Paul ignored the truth and pursued the path of  ‘fake news’  which said that Jesus wasn’t the Son of God and consequently, misdirected by others, he persecuted Christians.  Fortunately Paul had an encounter with Jesus on his way to Damascus.  It changed his mind completely  (as you would expect)  and Paul became a committed apostle.  He still bore the shame and stupidity of his disbelief but he says  “I am what I am”  not as a parody of the Holy Name but as a recognition of his mortal frailty.  He puts himself forward as an object that has been made and which has not lived up to expectations, a knock-off.  His tone is one of shame in feeling that he could do no better as a mere mortal but that he should have.  This would have brought him to despair, as it would us.  How many times has hindsight revealed our weaknesses and a better way to have chosen ?  Except there is one redeeming fact, real news, Good News, that Jesus is the Son of God and we are saved from our frailty by the Grace of God, through Jesus.

So next question what is this mysterious thing called Grace ?  Well it’s a bit like air.  We can’t see it, it’s everywhere and it has an effect in our lives.  By definition Grace is unmerited favour which comes from God and is experienced in many ways.  Grace has the sense then of a free gift unearned, and maybe undeserved too, because God is a generous God.  In the last few weeks our gifts have been discussed, they were received through baptism, therefore Grace has been bestowed on us.  When you get in a sticky situation and it works out, as it usually does, Grace has been bestowed in either the physical, emotional or spiritual realms.  The greatest Grace is Faith because that is like the password to a locked computer that contains a fortune in information.  It’s Faith that causes us to follow Jesus the way Simon Peter, James and John did.  Can we say along with Isaiah  “Here am I;  send me !”  Like the air Faith through Grace is available to all people, but like air it has to be discovered because it is not something that can be seen except in the actions of others, like in the trees.

Peter like all of us was a sinner, unlike some of us, he admitted it.  He was reluctant to be in the company of such a holy man as Jesus but in Faith and in confidence of the forgiveness of his sins he accepted Jesus’ offer to follow Him.  Let us pray that God’s Grace be poured out on us and all people, and like those first disciples all will believe that Jesus is the One, and that Faith in Him will lead to redemption and everlasting life, because it does.  Amen.

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